Maximization: The church and its ministers and ministries operate at optimal levels of effectiveness and efficiency

When Ministry Pruning You Better Wear Gloves

After moving to Northern New Mexico and discovering several fruit trees and rose bushes in my back yard, I am still learning to appreciate the necessity and skill of pruning. I easily cut off the dead and dying branches but it feels counterintuitive and I often lack the courage to cut back live limbs. I am still learning to trust God’s design that pruning maximizes the plant’s ability to bloom and produce fruit.

Similarly, it is difficult to remove or cut back church ministries that are still alive and viable. When we are honest about our struggle to prune ministries, our hesitation is due to the inevitable pushback we will endure from those people who are involved in the ministry that needs to go. Yet, ministry pruning creates healthier ministries and redirects resources to higher impact ministries.

Therefore, one of the key responsibilities of church leadership is to discern where ministries are in their lifecycle, to periodically measure their church and Kingdom impact, and to prune for better results regardless of how prickly the process.

However, not everyone knows how to prune fruit trees the right way. It takes someone with the knowledge, experience and skill. It takes someone who can discern the right timing and which limbs to keep and which ones to remove. Likewise, ministry pruning should be approached intentionally.

The following are several approaches I provide ministry leaders who are working with their teams on ministry pruning. Take a look and see if your team could benefit from them.

Four Approaches to Ministry Pruning

Start-Stop-Continue Approach – To Identify Margin for New Initiatives

  • Start – What new initiatives (strategies, ministries, programs or systems) might you offer that will help you more effectively achieve your key objectives and goals?
  • Stop – What current initiatives are the least effective in achieving your key objectives and goals? Of those listed, which could you stop doing that would provide the most margin for the initiatives you want to start? List from least risk to highest risk.
  • Continue – What current initiatives could be more effectively and efficiently maximized?

The Pareto Principle Approach – To Determine the 20% of Initiatives Providing 80% of Impact

  • List the 20% of your programs and ministries that provide 80% of your key measurement results.
  • What programs and ministries from your remaining 80% can be reduced, combined or eliminated to free up more time and resources to invest in the 20% of your initiatives providing the most impact?

The 50% Approach – To Determine Those Initiatives That are Core and Priority

  • If you had only time to implement half of your current initiatives, which would you choose?
  • If you only had half of your current budget, which of your current initiatives would you eliminate?
  • If you only had half of your current volunteers and staff, which of your current initiatives would you pursue?
  • What initiatives that you DIDN’T list could be cut or modified to free up more time, dollars and human resources to further focus on those initiatives you DID list?

The Modification Approach – To Determine Those Initiatives That Could be Combined or Reduced

  • Which of your current initiatives could be combined or offered at another time or location to free up time and money to contribute to your new and higher impact initiatives?
  • Which of your current initiatives could be reduced in size, scope, frequency or scale to free up time and money to contribute to your new and higher impact initiatives?

Ministry pruning is essential to the church producing greater fruit. Though ministry pruning may not seem pleasant at the time, you can look forward to dramatic results afterward.



Posted on August 18, 2015

Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5